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Portland, OR
USA

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.

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Why Father's Day Matters to Me

Michelle Watson

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June 19, 1910. Does this date ring a bell for you? 
 
It didn’t for me either. Nor did it seem noteworthy…until now, that is.
 
This day actually marks the first recorded Father’s Day in American history
 
For whatever reason, it never crossed my mind to investigate the origin of this annual holiday even though I’m passionate about focusing on fathers. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that this whole thing started because a daughter wanted to celebrate her dad!
 
Here’s the brief backstory: In the early 1900’s a Spokane, Washington woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd decided that her father, Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart, was worthy of being publicly honored for courageously stepping up to the plate after her mom died during childbirth, leaving him to raise a newborn baby and eight other children who were still under his roof at the time.
 
But this story is even more incredible.
 
William ended up as a single dad to a total of 14 children: four from his first marriage, six from his second marriage, a step father to three fatherless children from his second wife, and then became a father figure to the young daughter of his widowed sister, both whom he took in. Yet despite losing two wives to death, Mr. Smart was dedicated to being an invested single father during an era when this role for men was not necessarily the norm. 
 
Clearly, William Smart was a hero on the battlefield and in his home. 
 
With Senora Dodd leading the way, Spokane residents enthusiastically embraced this tradition of hailing fathers on the second Sunday in June each year during church services by giving them roses (red for the living and white in memory of the deceased). And because one honorable father did the right thing by singlehandedly investing in caring for his 14 children, our national holiday was born.
 
Great strides were made towards making this day a formalized festivity when President Woodrow Wilson attended the Father’s Day celebration in Spokane in 1912, only later to have President Calvin Coolidge declare in 1924 that he supported this day “in order to establish closer relationships between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” (according to the Library of Congress). But it took until 1972 for President Richard Nixon to officially sign the public law to make Father’s Day an official day of celebration. (Who knew?! I guess Nixon’s mark on history goes beyond Watergate!)
 
I LOVE that the origin of Father’s Day is based on a true story of an overextended father who was the stable force in his family after he and his children had suffered great losses. 
 
I RESPECT this dad for choosing to sacrificially invest as a single parent to his children, which honestly makes me appreciate even more the foundation on which this holiday was built! 
 
I CELEBRATE that a daughter was the initiator of this national event as she went against societal norms for women of her day by leading a movement that she believed in…one that was based on love and gratitude for her father. 
 
The correlations between this trailblazer and her extraordinary father are evident:
 
Courageous dad; courageous daughter. 
Determined dad; determined daughter.
Ambitious dad; ambitious daughter.
Progressive dad; progressive daughter.
Resourceful dad; resourceful daughter.
 
Yet beyond simply being inspired by this dad-daughter duo, let’s now bridge the past to our present. 
 
Wikipedia captures it best: Father's Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society.” I especially resonate with two of the concepts stated in this definition, that of “paternal bonds” and “the influence of fathers in society.” I believe these two themes are sequential because as bonding takes place between dads and their kids, powerful and positive societal impacts follow. Stated more succinctly, dads matter when it comes to the health of our nation.  
 
But sadly, I am compelled to acknowledge another reality.
 
Though I would love my blog today to only zero in on positive fathering and strong paternal bonds, I must add one additional bit of sobering commentary. I write this to recognize those who have lived a different story. 
 
I know there are myriads of men and women (many whom I call my friends) who struggle to endure this day year after year due to the focus on honoring fathers. The reason for their distress is that their souls, bodies, and spirits ache because their fathers did not honor them. And because they have suffered unimaginable pain on behalf of their fathers, they have been left fractured and scarred, with deep father wounds and profound father voids. 
 
For those of you who struggle today, from my heart to yours I say: I am so sorry that you have suffered great pain and loss at the hands of your father. I grieve with you that you didn’t get the dad you needed, wanted, or deserved. And because hurting people hurt people, your dad’s own woundedness poured forth to injure you.
 
Yet no matter your story, these eternal truths remain true:

  • You are more than the pain you have suffered.
  • You are worth more than you know or believe.
  • You are truly valuable because you’re alive and you’re here.
  • You have gifts that have been honed in the deep places of your heartache.
  • God never wastes pain, and as your wounds heal, you will grow stronger and give more out of a deeper well. (I speak from experience on that one). 

No matter what this day means to you---whether it’s hard or easy, celebratory or painful--- I trust that you’ll come to know in the depths of your being that you have a Dad in heaven who is with you, calls you His own, is proud of you, and celebrates you. And He is nothing like your earthly father who has hurt you, wounded you, abandoned you, or violated you. Your heavenly Father has made you in His image and proclaims that all He has created is GOOD. That includes you.
 
Finally, since this holiday was founded by a daughter who championed this movement out of love and respect for her father, today I encourage you, Dad, to ask yourself if you’re being the kind of dad whose daughter would start a national holiday in recognition of you. 
 
Be the dad your daughter can celebrate today. 
 
And I wish you the happiest of Father’s Days…from my heart to yours! 

Is Your Unattended Baggage Hurting Your Daughter? (Guest Blog by Marc Alan Schelske)

Michelle Watson

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Marc Alan Schelske is a friend I have grown to greatly respect and admire. Today as you read his guest blog, you as fathers will no doubt be inspired by his profound insights to help you relate in healthier ways to your daughters.
- Michelle

That morning I got up early, hoping to enjoy some quiet before family and work obligations kicked in. I shuffled to the kitchen to brew myself some Earl Grey.

In the darkness, my shin collided hard with some unseen obstacle. I tripped and threw out my arms, catching myself as I fell against the wall. My impediment crashed across the hardwoods setting the dog to barking. That woke up the rest of my family.

Bruised, frustrated, annoyed at the dog, I switched on the light to see what had been so irresponsibly left in the hallway. There it was. The blue carry-on baggage that belonged to me.

The week prior I had made a quick weekend flight for a writer’s event. I flew home to a schedule already overfull. Jumping right into the rush of my week, I left my baggage unattended in the hallway, where it sat, waiting to trip some unsuspecting family member. Luckily it was me!

Unattended Baggage Can Be Dangerous

You’ve heard that recorded message that comes over the airport public address system, the one that warns about unattended bags? The airport officials are trying to protect against terrorism threats, but apparently unattended baggage can be a real terror in other ways.

This isn’t just a problem at the airport. Apparently it’s a problem in my hallway. It’s also a threat to our relationship with our daughters.

The truth is that all of us dads have baggage we’ve never unpacked. Our hearts carry wounds that have scabbed over with time but have never received the proper healing.This baggage is just sitting around waiting for someone to trip over it. If we’re not careful, it’s going to be our daughters.

How Does This Baggage Show Up?

Coming back from my trip, I quickly fell back into my routine. The luggage I’d not had time to deal with got pushed to the side of the hallway and quickly faded into the background. I forgot it was there until my shin cracked into it.

Our emotional baggage is much the same. Regardless of what trauma or pain we’ve experienced in the past, we find a way to make life work.

For some of us, the wounds are so deeply buried, that we don’t think of them—and that seems almost the same as if we had dealt with them. We seem fine.

So, can we know if we’ve got untended baggage before it’s too late? Sure! There are three clear flags. If these are present in your life in an ongoing way, you’ve got unattended baggage.

1) Unexpected Outbursts
I noticed my unattended baggage when my shin sent it careening down the hall, waking up my whole family with an unexpected crash. That’s often how our emotional baggage surfaces too. Unexpected, loud and painful.

A common example of this is a dad’s Zero-to-Rage speed. Scripture counsels us to be slow to anger, and yet many speed past that instruction. You can call it a short fuse. 

You can blame it on your daughter’s disrespect or poor listening. But nobody is responsible for your burst of anger except you. If unexpected anger bursts in on us, boiling over in angry words, name-calling, blaming language or worse, that’s a flag that we have baggage that needs to be unpacked.

2) Outsized Responses
When my baggage crashed across the floor, and the dog started barking, the whole ordeal was far noisier than it needed to be. Similarly, emotional baggage often surfaces with a much bigger “crash” than seems reasonable.

If your daughter does something irritating or forgets some small responsibility, how do you react? Think about the tone of voice you use, the type of language you employ, the level of consequence you apply.

If what she did, objectively, weighs in at about a 4 or 5 in terms of seriousness, but the intensity of your response to her is more like a 9 or 10, that’s an outsized response. Maybe you pride yourself on being a strict parent, or “not taking any garbage.”

Well, consider the possibility that your intensity has nothing to do with your daughter, or with wanting to “run a tight ship.” It’s possible that you are inflicting emotional intensity on your daughter that doesn’t belong to her. Regular outsized responses are a flag that you have baggage that needs to be unpacked.

3) Hidden Hazards
In the dark that morning, I couldn’t see my luggage in the pathway. Because I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t avoid running into it. 

Emotional baggage is often invisible in the same way. Sometimes it’s invisible to you. Often, it’s invisible to your daughter.

She’s just going her life, being a kid. She doesn’t understand one particular thing might rub you the wrong way. She probably doesn’t get why you have so much energy around a particular behavior. In her mind “it’s not a big deal.” In your mind, it’s suddenly everything.

If interacting with you is a “minefield,” full of hidden hazards, that’s a flag that you have unattended baggage that needs to be unpacked.

Don’t Give Your Daughter Your Baggage!

The whole incident with the luggage in the hallway could have easily been avoided. All that was needed was for me to take responsibility. Instead of leaving my bag unattended and packed in the hallway, I could have taken the time to unpack it and put it away.

When we don’t take responsibility for our emotional baggage, it often becomes someone else’s problem. Our denial ends up hurting people we love. Then, our baggage becomes their baggage.
 
As dads, one of our chief responsibilities is to set up our children for the best possible chance of a healthy life. Passing our unpacked baggage on to them is a violation of this commitment.

If you find your relationship with your daughter marked by unexpected outbursts, outsized responses, and hidden hazards, it’s time to take responsibility.

Maybe that means investing time in learning how to listen to and process your emotions. 
(I wrote a book about that called The Wisdom of Your Heart: Discovering the God-given Power and Purpose of your Emotions.) 

Maybe it means getting coaching from a professional, like a therapist or a pastor with skills in this area. It’s not weakness to get support in this area; it is you giving your best attention to being the best dad you can be—and that’s part of your commitment to set your daughter up for the best possible life experience.

Don’t leave your baggage out where she can trip over it.

Instead, give her a healthy example of courage and personal responsibility by unpacking your own baggage before it becomes someone else's problem.

Dads and Princess Longings

Michelle Watson

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“I wish I could be a princess,” my 9-year-old niece Amy said longingly as we walked out of the theater after seeing Princess Diaries starring Anne Hathaway back in 2001.
 
I’ll never forget the faraway look in Amy’s eyes as she expressed her secret wish to be in the same place as Mia Thermopolis, whose fairy tale came true after being plucked from obscurity upon discovering that she was the heir apparent to the crown of Genovia, a small fictional kingdom in Europe. 
 
My theory as to why this movie struck box office gold, yielding $165.3 million, was that it captured the heart longings of many girls (young and old) as their fantasies were captured on the big screen. 
 
As my niece Amy twirled around in the foyer that day, still in her post-movie daze, I tried to tell her about something beyond the fairy tale, about the way that we can be women who use our platforms to influence the world for good, whether or not we’re a tiara-donning princess. I’m not so sure that she fully grasped my lesson in her pre-adolescent stage of development, but I did my best to make the most of a teachable moment!
 
This weekend the entire world will be transfixed on seeing a real life princess story unfold as Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry in London, England. 
 
Now you as a dad may think this whole thing is a bit silly and sensationalized, but I assure you that your daughter (and perhaps other women you know) may have a different opinion. In fact, I just read an article describing the royal wedding as “one of the most anticipated events of the year” with a play-by-play timeline of the entire day, starting with guests arriving at 9 a.m. GMT/4 a.m. EST up until the bride arrives at 11:59 a.m. GMT/6:59 a.m. EST, with only one minute to spare when the wedding is slated to begin promptly at 12 p.m. GMT/7 a.m. EST. Whew…that’s precision, wouldn’t you say?!
 
I have to ask myself what it is about this type of romantic story that captivates women around the world.
 
In my research with teen and 20-something girls, I asked them whether they ever longed to be a princess. I was told repeatedly that there is something in the heart of a girl where she longs to be chosen above all the rest. 
 
Essentially, she yearns to know that she is uniquely special, that she stands out from other girls in a way that sets her apart. She doesn’t want to blend in with the crowd; she wants to be cherished and loved just for being herself, even when less than perfect. 
 
Then I asked these girls an even more important question: How can your dad make you feel more like royalty, like a princess?

I believe you’ll find their responses informative as you glean from their input and apply it to your own relationship with your daughter:

·      “I would love to hear my dad say how he really feels about me and express his enjoyment in being around me.”

·      “I wish he would spend more time with me.”

·      “Maybe reach out to see how I’m doing more consistently instead of the other way around.”

·      Encourage my dreams without telling me they’re impractical or too unrealistic.”

·      “My dad already treats me that way…I’m his little girl, always.”

·     “He could just out of nowhere--and for no reason other than to make me feel those things--just send a little letter or note or message saying that he loves methinks I am special, accepts me, and enjoys who I am. Just to hear his honesty about what he thinks about me and when he thinks about me makes me feel all of those things.”

·      “I think one of the biggest things is when he helps me to see my strength, my beauty, my talent, my uniqueness, and when he shows me that I am a woman to be cherished and pursuedby doing just that.” 

·      “Anything my dad does to just let me know he is thinking about me or wants to spend time with me means a lot and makes me feel honored, like a princess.”
 

So Dad, why not use the royal wedding this weekend as a conversation starter to delve into those distinctive places tucked deep inside your daughter. If you ask, I imagine she’ll share her thoughts.

Here are some questions to get the dialogue started as you pursue her intentionally and celebrate her longings with her:
 
1. As a little girl (or even now) were you drawn to movies about princesses? Who were your favorite characters and why?

2. Now that you’re older, do you ever think about being a princess anymore? If you did bring “the princess” back into your life, what would that look like for you?

3. Can you think of any ways that I could make you feel more like a princess? 
 
4. If I was to fill up your love tank by making you feel more loved and special and accepted and enjoyed, what could I do specifically to make you feel those things now in your life? 
 
Have fun making this weekend one where your daughter feels like a princess because it’s always a good time to bring the princess back!

My Birthday Wish

Michelle Watson

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Today is my birthday and I’m 58 years old.
 
Wow…saying that out loud really does serve as a reality check! But honestly, I’m not one of those women who keeps her age a secret (obviously). I know it’s just a number, right?

Today I’m inviting you to join me in my celebration as I make a wish while simultaneously blowing out a massive number of candles on THE best homemade carrot cake ever made! (Seriously…my mom’s cake could win awards).

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So here’s my birthday wish: That every dad reading this blog will immediately touch base with his daughter, which will be like blowing her a kiss by speaking words of love, life, and blessing to her.
 
That, my friend, is what we on Venus call a “heart turn.”
 
I want every heart of every dad to turn toward his daughter in a renewed way…today.

Now if you happen to be a dad who has a burned out bridge with your daughter, then my birthday wish for you is that you will do whatever it takes to rebuild or repair that bridge. Humble yourself, listen to how you’ve hurt her, ask for forgiveness, make amends, and then do something fun (a.k.a. reparative and restorative) together. 

Gary is one of my new heroes, proving that it's NEVER TOO LATE to do the right thing. He gave me permission to share his words with you:
 

"As I was listening to some of your podcasts today I was crying because I have been such a BAD dad through the last 30 years. I have been on a journey of trying to heal my own wounds. It’s a long story but today my daughter and I are leaving for a Father/Daughter trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. All because your podcasts gave me the idea!!!! I’m 62 and she will be 30 this year.

 

 
I tried to get your book today so we could have it for a the trip but the local Barnes and Noble book store does not have it in stock, so I’ll have to order one when we get back home... 
 
Thank you for sharing your lovely heart and allowing me to gain wisdom through your heart!'"
 

Yes, this is what my heart truly longs for today and this is exactly what a father’s turned heart looks like: love backed with action. 
 
Dads, this is the best birthday present I could ever ask for!

Your Words Wear Me Out!

Michelle Watson

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Dad, have you ever thought---or said---these five words to your daughter? If so, you’re not alone!

Truth be told, I’ve had more dads than I can count tell me they often are glassy-eyed as their daughters (especially adolescent girls) talk so fast and furious that it’s like they’re standing there looking into a vast abyss of words. They admit to me that this is when their minds suddenly go blank and they can’t even think of what to say next because they’ve taken a detour from the main conversation a few exits back!

Case in point: Just this week a dad told me that he literally had no idea what his teenage daughter was even talking about as he sat there and tried to keep up. My heart went out to him as I validated that his experience was normal. I then encouraged him not to walk away, ignore her, or shut her out because in doing so he shuts her down. Girls take those non-verbal cues and not only interpret them as rejection, but assume that something is inherently wrong with who they are because they couldn’t keep dad interested in what they were saying.

With that backdrop, I think you’ll enjoy hearing the backstory to the title of this blog.

I’ll never forget the Monday night when my dad and I were having dinner at Costco (yes, we enjoy fine dining in the Watson family!). As he took a bite of his pepperoni pizza, out of my dad’s mouth popped this unexpected revelation:

“To be honest, Michelle, a lot of the time your words wear me out.
 I just can’t listen to you as much as you want me to because of
 there being so many words. Half the time you lose me.”

I’m not gonna lie. I was shocked. I didn’t even know what to say at first because my dad had never told me anything about this before and it kind of smacked me upside the head. 

But, on the other hand, I was thankful that he was being honest with me. I love real conversations that sit in the center of authentic relationships, even when they’re challenging and hard.

So my dad and I kept talking about it, on and off, throughout that night. 

I remember telling him that I realize I do talk a lot, but that I never ever intend to overwhelm or overpower him. I told him that as an extrovert, words just seem to flow easily and freely.We even reminisced about a similar message being written on almost all of my report cards back in elementary school, “Michelle talks too much.”

(Who would have ever thought that my “talking gift” would eventually become an open door to host my own radio program?! Perhaps my story can serve as an encouragement to you if your daughter drives you bonkers at times with all her words!)

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So what do you do if, like my dad, you have a daughter who has the “gift of gab” where her words really do exhaust you? 

Here are a few pointers that might help you to go the distance with your verbose daughter:

1.    Hold on to the words of my friend, Joe Kelly (a.k.a. The Dad Man), who says that “a girl’s voice may be the most valuable and most threatened resource she has,” which means that as you respect and honor her voice, you teach her that what she has to say has merit (even as she’s figuring out what it is she has to say!).
 

2.    Remember that we as girls tend to figure things out by talking; so you are giving her a profound gift just by actively listening as she hears herself process everythingout loud.
 

3.    Rest assured that your idea of what it means to have too many words and her idea of too many words are two different things. And as the adult it’s your job to pace with her---not the other way around.
 

4.    Make sure that your own inner dialogue centers around gratitude that she’s actually talking with youbecause it sets a solid foundation for her to be open and transparent with you for years to come (and the rest of her life, actually)
 

5.    Don’t shame her or try to change her by criticizing her “mastery of language.”(how’s that for a nice reframe?!)

6.    Remind yourself that God creates---and loves---both introverts and extroverts(where one isn’t better than the other) and He’s wired her this way for a purpose.
 

7.    Turn your exhaustion and/or frustration into a prayer for her future, asking God to give her opportunities to use her giftedness with words to speak life and love into those around her.
 

8.    Find creative ways to support her love for languageby encouraging her to:
 

·     try joining the debate class at school

·     job shadow someone at a local television or radio station where she will get a front row seat to seeing life as an anchor, reporter, or host (which will inspire her to look toward her future and set goals)

·     write something for the local newspaper or a national organization

·     submit an article for an online magazine or digital forum 

·     start blogging her own thoughts, passions, observations, questions, and convictions as she finds her unique voice

·     begin taking steps to pursue writing a book on a topic that speaks to her heart

·     volunteer at a nursing home where older folks who are lonely would cherish time with a talkative young girl while giving her their full attention as they enjoy her company
 

9.    In the meantime---before she gets from where she is now to where she will be---be willing to do your own work to grow by challenging yourself to track with her wordsas you ask questions to draw her out so she knows that the things that matter to her matter to you. (I realize this seems counterintuitive to ask her to talk more, but trust me…it will bear great dividends in her life as you do this!)

Dad, decide right now to give the gift of validation by celebrating every word that comes out of your talkative daughter’s mouthwhile reminding yourself that your listening ear communicates loudly and directly to her that she is worthy. 

How about letting her know today---by staying for the entire conversation and actively listening ---that her words don’t wear you out (and even if they do, that can be our little secret). Then cherish the fact that your daughter has a voice and is learning to use it wisely as she practices expressing it. 

Summing up: Empowered womenhave a voiceEmpowered women use their voice.

Andwhenempowered women use their voices while simultaneously having dads who celebrate them, they receive a double blessing. 

So Dad, put your love into action today by celebrating the words coming out of your daughter’s mouth as you let her know you are listening.  


 

 

From Parenting to Partnering: How to Be A Father to Your Adult Daughter (Guest Blog by Hannah Ellenwood)

Michelle Watson

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I am excited at the opportunity to share about my experience of navigating adulthood with my dad. More specifically, I’ll be opening up about how he’s helped me so that any dads in that same season with your own daughters can hear it straight from me---a 26-year old daughter, who has learned (and am still learning) to live as a healthy, independent woman.
 
The transition from 'teen' to 'adult' was a thrilling and scary time beyond what I had ever anticipated. And the reality is that we daughters NEED you---our dads---in that transition more than ever.
 
I’ll never forget the day I packed up and moved across the ocean for college. Because I grew up as a missionary kid in the Czech Republic, my parents had taken me to the airport to see me off, but they couldn’t come with me. I was thrilled and absolutely terrified at the same time. My mom was in tears while my dad just laughed, smiled and said: “I honestly couldn’t be more excited for you to go!” 
 
I remember feeling a little offended at first – I wanted him to be sad I was leaving. But then he continued:

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"I’ve spent the past 19 years investing in you and praying for the woman you would become and now I get to watch you live out who you are. I have full confidence in you and full confidence in God, who is in you. And I am SO PROUD to be your dad."

He wasn’t celebrating the fact that he was getting rid of me. He was celebrating meand this new season that he was releasing me into---independence as an adult woman. And though he was sending me off, I always knew he would be available to me when I needed a place to land.

And this is why I want to give you some practical pointers today.

Let’s be real. As exciting as it is to release your daughter into becoming an independent woman, it’s also a bit awkward and can feel clunky to navigate. The reality is, though, that she still needs you and this may be the first time in her life that she realizes just how much.

It’s key for you to partner with her as she navigates this new world of adulthood.
 
Here are some of the significant ways my dad has done that with me over the past seven years. I hope they spur you on to think of practical ideas for how you can partner with your daughter in this season of her life:
 
1. Pursue her– I know it can be tricky to figure out the balance of being involved as a dad with not being too involved. I’ve talked to several friends whose dads have seemed to just go silent once they left the house. They all say they wish he would reach out more and pursue them with more intentionality. I love when my dad connects with me on FaceTime for no other reason than to catch up. It makes me feel so valued – and it tells me he enjoys our conversations and sharing life with me. He’ll ask me about my week and catch me up on his. It speaks volumes to me that on his drive to or from the office, or while he’s relaxing at home, he’ll pick up the phone and call. I love that he thinks of me!

2. Learn the stranger– Just because she’s out of your house doesn’t mean you should stop learning your daughter and the person she’s becoming. I can tell you one thing for sure – nothing about our twenties is clear. We are more confused about who we are now than we’ve ever been. I’ve changed directions for what seems like a hundred times. I’ve come face-to-face with my ugly sin. I’ve found new things that make me come alive. I’ve discovered more of who I was created to be, but I’ve struggled with it just as much. So, dads, keep leaning in and learning the stranger-- and by that I mean ask good questions. Listen with compassion. Give her space to change and grow, but be a student of her as she does. I have really appreciated the questions my dad asks me as I figure life out. They are asked in the context of who I am and who I’ve been, and they help me thoughtfully consider who I am becoming. And I know that he’s learning right along with me.

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3. Know your daughter– As you learn who she is, show her that you know her and relate to her from the things you’ve learned. It is so easy to continue relating to your daughter as the little girl you raised. And while she still is your little girl, she’s also becoming a woman, influenced by her new community, her work, and the city she lives in. She’s her own woman. It goes a long way when you allow her to be the woman she is becoming; when you’ve taken the time to learn who she is today and choose to relate to her from that point.  She may start caring about social issues she didn’t used to care about or get involved in activities that she's just now discovering she likes. She may approach relationships differently and need you to help her navigate all the change.

4. Celebrate who she is– As she is changing and becoming the woman she was created to be, find ways to celebrate what you’ve learned about her. Send her a text telling her what you are proud of. Take her out to dinner when she accomplishes a goal. I remember one day my dad sent me a text out of the blue telling me something he had observed in me over the past couple of months and simply said he was so proud to be my dad. He doesn’t do it all the time, but when he does, it has the power to transform my whole week. I see myself differently when I get to see myself through his eyes. 

5. Be there to catch her and hold her when she fails– She will make mistakes. I’ve made so many. In fact, just a few weeks ago I realized I owed three times more than what I thought I would with taxes. It was my first time filing under self-employment – I didn’t know what I was doing. The news shook me. I immediately texted my dad because I needed him to "save the day". He was boarding a five-hour flight. But he knew that I had the potential to worry myself into a pit that would be hard to get out of, so he bought wifi on the plane just so he could keep talking things through with me and speaking truth to me. That small act of love made me feel deeply loved and cared for because I know he never gets wifi on the plane. It truly meant the world to me. Your daughter will probably make mistakes like this too. And she will need you to be there to catch her, love her, encourage her while speaking truth to her when she feels lost, lonely and confused. You have incredible power to remind her what is true and who she is. 

Dads, we - your adult daughters - still need you. 
We make mistakes and have a lot we're trying to figure out and it can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. We are going to trip and fall on our faces, and we need you to be there to love us when we do. 
 
And it’s okay if it feels clunky trying to figure this out. It feels clunky to us too. But the fact that you’re pursuing us with intentionality says everything.
 
And the rhythms you set for engaging us now set the tone for our relationship as adults - and now is the best time to start practicing. 

"I Want More of My Dad"

Michelle Watson

I’m at the age where attending funerals is becoming more commonplace. And truly, there’s nothing like an end of life celebration to bring everything into perspective.

Awhile back I attended a funeral for a dear friend’s husband. There was hardly a dry eye in the place as one of their sons shared story after story about what his dad had meant to him.

While choking back tears, he invited us all to dig a bit deeper as he said, “I think everyone in here could say, ‘I want more of my dad.’”

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Dads, Don't "Should" On Your Daughter

Michelle Watson

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By now, Dads, you know that I love giving you “insider trade secrets” so that you are more equipped to decode your daughters. Today I’m adding another tool to your fathering tool belt to support that goal.

I don’t know what it is about the word “should” that makes it a power word on my planet of Venus, but I’m telling you that I literally hear this word all the time!

Here are some examples of things I’ve heard from women just this week (for real!):

  • I should love this time of year, but I just don’t.
  • I probably should have dealt better with that situation and not let her get to me.  
  • I don’t know what’s wrong with me…I should be grateful for all the good things happening in my life, but I’m just so depressed.
  • All of my friends are doing things right---like saving money, moving towards marriage, buying a house, getting pregnant, and on it goes. When I see all that’s going right for them, it makes me think of what I’m not doing and all the things I should have been doing long before now. I’m way behind where I want to be and won’t ever catch up.
  • I know I should care about the people in my life, but I hate all the drama and I’m sick of caring this much because it takes me down.
  • I guess you get stuck on a path in life of where you think you should be.
  • When I get around my friends, I constantly compare myself to them and think that I should be more like them. But the truth is that I feel like a fraud. I don’t fit in because they’re all prettier, richer, and more accomplished than me.
  • I should be getting up earlier and spending more time with God, but I never get that right either.
  • I am so stressed right now and feel so much pressure constantly to make everyone happy----at work, at home, with my friends, etc, and it seems that someone is always disappointed in me or mad at me. I know I should be doing more, but I can barely keep my head above water as it Is and hardly have any time for myself.

Dads, let me ask you a question: Does your heart break like mine as you hear these collective voices of self-condemnation that are doused with a thick dose of unrealistic expectations, smothered by the constant pressure to measure up?

For me, as I worked my way down this list, I noticed a mounting heaviness, even some sadness, as each self-deprecating sentence unfolded. Every one of these women feels like she’s not doing enough or being enough while seeing herself as falling short when she compares herself to those around her. It all amounts to: SHE’s not enough.

In fact, it’s this comparison game that is destroying her self confidence, her happiness, her inner peace, her joy, her optimism, her perspective, her energy…and on it goes.

I’m guessing you’ve heard similar messages from your daughters.

Let me share with you how I typically respond to these kinds of statements when I am sitting in my counseling office or meeting with women I mentor. Here’s what I say time and again:

“Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.”

 As you can imagine, initially there’s an awkward laugh…and that’s part of my strategy for lightening the atmosphere in the room, even if just for a minute. When a woman starts down the dreaded “should” path, my desire is to guide her to see what it’s doing to her. And I’ve discovered that most women don’t even know they’ve said these words until I’ve pointed them out! 

Now here’s the best part: I notice that a positive shift begins to happen when a woman clearly sees the amount of undue pressure she’s putting on herself.

There’s an even greater shift when she admits that she’s caught in a destructive cycle where she can never succeed, never relax, never enjoy life, and never get out from under the tyranny of her own self-degrading messages. Then I love seeing her breathe a sigh of relief as the truth starts setting her free.

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Now that you’re more informed about the mental struggles that tend to barrage us as Venusians, I want to point out that even though you as her dad don’t intend to add more pressure when addressing things that need changing---whether it’s that she didn’t respond right or do what she was supposed to do or didn’t answer right away you when you asked her a question…or…fill in the blank---the reality is that your daughter is often weighed down by your “should” messages.

 

What she hears is that she’s a failure and a disappointment to you. And since she already believes that about herself much of the time anyway, it’s oftentimes more than she can bear.

And yes, her attitudes and behaviors are things that need correcting and shaping at various times and in certain situations…BUT REMEMBER:

  1. It’s all about timing. Wait until you…and she…are in a good emotional space where you are able to convey your message well, which increases the chances that it will be received positively by her. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for disaster.
  2. It’s all about noticing. Before speaking, take the time to listen and find out if there’s something deeper going on that may be causing her to be sour or unpleasant. If she’s already had a bad day, decide that now isn’t the time to “should” on her. Come back and talk to her later if you want to reach her heart. And you’ll see that it’s always a win when you speak to her heart – the deeper part – before speaking to her behavior or attitude.
  3. It’s all about validating. Make it your goal to hear her side of the story while seeking to understand why things went down the way they did. Wait to give feedback until she’s open, and with this slight course correction in WHEN you respond, HOW you respond, and WHAT you say when you respond, you will increase the likelihood of a successful interaction.

If you’re a dad who doesn’t want to “should” on your daughter anymore, decide today to delete the word “should” from your vocabulary, and instead, find other words to make statements, ask questions, or nudge her to action.

And just in case you’d like to have an alternative script in hand for the next time a situation like this presents itself, here’s a way you might try saying it to her:

“It seems like you have a lot weighing on you right now. I know when I’m stressed and feeling pressured to do everything right, I get overwhelmed too…maybe in different ways than you, but stress still impacts me somewhat the same.

 I’d love to better understand what you’re feeling and thinking, so if you’d like me to listen or help, I’m here.”

Why not try it out and let me know how it goes. Better said, I really think you should try this and then let me know how it works!

What Men Think About #MeToo : The Top 6 Reactions

Michelle Watson

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My brilliant and wise friend, Shaunti Feldhahn, lends her voice to this ongoing conversation about sexual harassment against women. As a social researcher, she sheds light on what men have to say about the #MeToo movement. I believe you’re going to resonate with her findings and love her work as much as I do!   —Michelle

Suddenly, the lights turned on. Sexual harassment has always been there, in the shadowy corners of Hollywood and corporate America. Many people talk about honoring women yet have long excused (or winked at) abusive behavior.  But the Harvey Weinstein case flipped a switch. Suddenly: klieg lights. Suddenly: people are actually losing their jobs.

Wow.  

This is a sea change for our culture. This is a moment. And as a social researcher (who for 15 years has been hearing the innermost things people think but rarely say) I wanted to know what folks’ private thoughts were about this. I generally know what women think (a combination of relief, giddiness, and serves you right). But I was particularly curious what men think about the #MeToo tsunami.

Here’s what I found.

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Thought #1: I had no idea
I interviewed three men in an airport a few days ago. They were tired after a long day at a board meeting and eating a hasty Chinese food dinner before catching flights home to Seattle, Dallas, and Atlanta.  Their top reaction matches the top reaction of nearly every other man I’ve interviewed: I had no idea.  I had no idea it was this pervasive.  I had no idea you as women had to deal with this so consistently.  I feel so bad.

Not long after the #MeToo movement started, one man told me, “I think my female co-workers have tried to tell me about stuff that happened in other jobs, but I just assumed it was isolated. Sort of the same thing you’d feel if someone told you they got hit by a car. ‘Oh that must have been so painful. Glad that doesn’t happen very often!’”  

As one of the airport road warriors put it, “I’m still trying to figure out how to wrap my head around the fact that there’s been this whole parallel reality that I knew nothing about.”

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Thought #2: So now I’m angry — and I’m glad I have permission to say something about it
One thing I learned about men during the For Women Only research study, is that most men have a deep compulsion to provide for and protect those they care about. While most of that compulsion goes toward providing for and protecting their family (71% of men say it that is always or often on their mind, in case you’re curious), that same instinct wants to protect all those who are more vulnerable.  Which is what makes this doubly galling for all the good guys out there.  Women were being hurt right under their noses: and because they had no idea (or didn’t realize what a big deal it was), they failed to protect them.

Many of the men I spoke to were angry. Not in a “I’m going to go all Braveheart on you” sort of way, but in a quieter, simmering, “I’m now going to be on the lookout for this” sort of way. There was a sense of purpose: that if they saw it now, at least they could do something about it.

Thought #3: Shame
A lot of men have realized they’ve seen truly abusive behavior right in front of their eyes and downplayed or discounted it as no big deal. Like seeing one gregarious, raunchy boss who regularly did things like look at a news article about safe sex and joke to the gang – including the one woman – that having safe sex meant providing kneepads. Seeing… and never saying anything about it.

These men are now reckoning with the reality that what they personally observed (or heard about) was not just a coarse, unprofessional approach but in some cases true abuse. That over time those behaviors have real consequences for a woman’s thoughts, fears, worries, and even job prospects. That by downplaying it they failed to protect women who needed it (per Thought #2). 

Many of these men are doing some soul searching. How could I ever have thought that it was not that big of a deal?  They ask themselves. How could I have ever thought the woman should have to be the one to just ignore it or brush it off? Would I want some guy saying that stuff around my daughter? Would I want my wife to have to play along in order to not rock the boat? Would I want my daughter’s colleagues to excuse it just because its always been that way?

Famed director Quentin Tarantino, who worked with Harvey Weinstein on nearly all his films, had a telling mea culpa in a New York Times interview.  He said he had heard the rumors that Weinstein was a bit lecherous, but “I chalked it up to a ’50s-’60s era image of a boss chasing a secretary around the desk… As if that’s O.K. That’s the egg on my face right now.”


Thought #4: Who’s next? I’ll bet there are some men quaking in their boots right now. 
The question that many of us are asking — “Who’s next? Which domino will be the next to fall?” — is definitely in the minds of the average guy. And just like with women I talk to, I hear a savage satisfaction from men in knowing there are some abusers out there who are going to their jobs every day, wondering whether or when they will be reported for previous actions. 

One guy put it well. “It’s the same thing that you feel when the bad guy gets it at the end of the movie. If I was working in a corporate environment, and I had a skeleton in my past, I’d be living with a lot of looking over my shoulder.” After all, the first punishment of the guilty mind is waiting to be found out. 

Thought #5: But this means I have to restrain genuine affection for, respect for, and togetherness with female colleagues
There’s an inevitable downside to any good movement, and this is it for this one.  Nearly all the men mentioned this concern.  A single law partner who is genuinely interested in exploring a personal relationship with a junior associate is going to hold himself back.

She might be sensing some attraction and hoping he’ll reach out, but if she’s junior, she sure won’t say anything – and now he might not either.  An honorable man who would otherwise suggest that a female colleague join him to close the Boston deal is going to think twice.  After all, it will only be the two of them in the hotel.  And forget those genuine but platonic workplace hugs.  

As one guy ruefully put it, “It’s the law of unintended consequences.  The course correction needs to happen, but I worry that the men who care the most – who already were being careful – are the ones likely to hold themselves back even more!  And that could drain away the feeling of camaraderie at work.  I hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too far.”

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Thought #6: Finally, the good guys win… or at least aren’t losing
And finally, I’m also hearing an interesting, very private thought from many of these men. If they have not played it fast and loose over the years, if they have tried to be honorable, if they have been respectful of women … they have often watched men who did the opposite rocket past them in their careers.  So as one man put it, “I am all for this moment in history.  I think it is grand. Because it feels like, for once, the good guys aren’t losing. So many of the bad guys got ahead by disregarding the right thing in a lot of ways.  By trying to be straight up, a lot of good men got sidelined.  But now, finally, there’s a cost to the wrong attitude.”

Another had a more personal observation, “I hope you can share that there are a lot of men who try to honor our wives, and women in general. We take that seriously. We may not be getting recognition for that.  We may have done poorly in comparison to other guys because we wouldn’t join the locker-room crowd. But that’s okay. I love that I can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience.”


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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average, clueless people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, and For Men Only). Copyright ©Shaunti Feldhahn. Used with permission.

Dads, It’s Time to Start a Movement Today

Michelle Watson

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I once heard it said that “movies suspend reality for a period of time and open up new possibilities.”

This past week I watched something unfold on the small screen that wasn’t exactly a made-for-tv movie; instead, it was a real life drama. And it opened up something in me, namely a drive to speak up and speak out.

Like much of America, I witnessed the live news coverage of female victims speaking out against their sexual abuser, Dr. Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State, Olympic and USA Gymnastics doctor. What I discovered was that my reality wasn’t just suspended; it was activated. And yes, it launched in me a desire to be vulnerable and transparent with you today.

A couple of years ago I had a phone conversation with a dad who had just read my book, and I remember him saying that as he read my words he kept wondering if there was more to my story. Then he got to page 206 where I briefly talk about my wounds from my grandfather and it was then that he said I made more sense. He had wondered where I got my passion for fathers of daughters and hearing my backstory gave him a bit more context.

To be honest, I didn’t think it was all that important for dads to know much about my sexual abuse history from my maternal grandfather and others. In my mind it seemed unnecessary to include more than a small section about it in my book since my focus is on equipping dads to dial in to their daughter’s hearts. But today I am rethinking that decision.

Maybe you do want to hear my story.

Maybe you do need to hear my story.

And maybe my honesty will give you a window into what sexual assault does to women. So I am here today, emboldened to ask you as dads to enter into this conversation with me.

Sadly, many of your daughters share in this same reality because they too have been violated. In fact, I just listened to a powerful speech by a singer-songwriter named Halsey who shared these words at the Women’s March in NYC two weekends ago: “It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe as long as she is alive, and every friend that I know has a story like mine. And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment.” 

 Dads, the truth is that sexual assault is an epidemic. And hard as it may be to hear, your daughters are being exploited and abused, violated and raped, and it’s time to make your voices heard to defend them, protect them, support them, believe them. Even more, we need you to challenge the men in your tribe while leading the way in saying, “This has to STOP!”

Last week I was transfixed as Rachael Denhollander, the final woman to testify out of 165 witnesses against Dr. Larry Nasser, boldly raised her voice to confront her abuser, all the while talking about accountability, repentance, forgiveness, and living by what the Bible says. I had tears streaming down my cheeks because I could relate to her story and imagined myself standing next to her as she gave her testimony. I was so moved by her words that I was compelled to post the most raw and real version of my story that I’ve ever shared on Facebook. [You can read the entire post here].

Here is an excerpt:

"To hear Rachael stand up and address her abuser head-on made me think about the time in my journey where I wished I could have confronted my grandfather. But he was dead by that point. So I wrote a letter in my journal that I pretended was going to be printed in the Granite Falls (MN) Times. I wanted everyone to know that the man they saw as a positive contributing member of their community (as a Bible teacher, a radio show host, a “man of the cloth,” a school board member, and a farmer) was also indeed a pedophile and sexual offender.

I chose to forgive him then and release my anger to God. That decision has held and I do not hold unforgiveness or bitterness towards him or any of my abusers. As a result, Jesus has met me in my process and I have been released from my attachment to abuse. My abuse no longer defines who I am."

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Today when Rachael finished her testimony, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina highlighted that she was the first woman to come forward and lead with courage. She then added that Rachael was “a five star general in this battle and the strongest person who has even been in my courtroom.”

I pray that today is a turning point day in our nation’s history where those who are victims of sexual assault will no longer be silenced, but will be believed and honored for their strength and courage.

I pray that today is a turning point in our nation’s history to stop sexual predators like my grandfather, no matter what rank they hold in our society.

Like Michigan Assistant Attorney General, Angela Povilaitis, said today, “We have seen how one voice can start a movement.”

Let today be the start of a movement where women’s voices are heard and where we no longer hold the secrets of evil that has been done to us. We are more than that.

Let today be the start of women coming together to stand united in supporting each other to embrace the truth of who we are in God’s eyes.

Let today be the start of new era where as empowered women we use our voices to stand up for the rights of those who have no voice, where we love well, and love BIG...which is the best way we can turn the tables on that which has sought to destroy us.

Let today be the start of a movement."

And now I implore you as fathers to join this movement.

  • It’s time to hear the stories of your daughters when it comes to knowing how they are being treated by men.
  • It’s time to ask questions in a non-judgmental way about what guys are doing to them and asking or demanding of them while giving your input about their value and worth.
  • It’s time to open up lines of communication about this topic---even if you’re uncomfortable “going there” with your daughters.
  • The time is now to stop cowering in fear, afraid that you may say it wrong, and instead step up and talk to your daughters about their sexual choices or experiences, assuring them that they deserve to be respected and that you are in their corner no matter what.
  • The time is now to tell her that “Dad has no problem stepping in to protect you, and all you have to do is say the word and I’ll be there.” [I know a dad who just did this with his adult daughter, so this really is possible and powerful].
  • The time is now to stop doing anything in your own personal life that objectifies women and contributes to this larger societal problem---from discontinuing pornography use to examining your own treatment of women to refusing to engage in emotional affairs or any sexual activity that dishonors your marital vows or relationship commitments.

I’ll close with quoting the words of my friend Armin in response to my Facebook post last week. As a dad to two young daughters, he is a fierce protector of women, and with his permission I share his words with you. I truly believe that if more men stood in agreement with Armin then sexual assault against women as we know it would end because the honoring of women would be championed by great men like him…and you.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this sorry excuse of an era is coming to an end. A new dawn is on the horizon where survivors will not have to be silent for the fear of shame, rejection, judgment, condemnation and more. People will finally stop turning a blind eye or ear just because it’s ‘uncomfortable.’ The actions of brave women like yourself, the many women of Hollywood, and many more are finally seeing the fruit of bold courage after thousands of years of the same thing. I applaud you and all the women like you.

 It’s sad that it has to be ‘trendy’ for people to get behind those who have been persecuted for this movement to take place. But regardless, it has begun and there is nothing that will stop it at this point, as long as people don’t stay silent. Thank you for being the bold, courageous, loving, and inspiring leader that you are. Absolutely honored to know you and call you friend, Michelle Watson. Boldly forward!”

The time is now for every daughter to have her father standing alongside her, united in solidarity, as together they powerfully use their voices to tell men everywhere that sexual harassment, exploitation, assault, and violence against all women will no longer be tolerated.  

The time is now for every daughter to speak out and tell her story without fear, confidently knowing that her dad will be the first to believe her while supporting her through her healing process.

Dads, it's time to start a movement on behalf of your daughters today.

 

 Rachael Denhollander photo courtesy of CNN.